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Christmas wishes

The Christmas Gift of Knowing You

The Christmas season fills our hearts with joy;
Bright, happy days bring special kinds of pleasure.
We're wrapped in the excitement of it all,
The sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes we treasure.

Yet when we have some quiet time to think
About our finest blessings all year through,
We focus on our family and our friends,
And appreciate the gift of knowing you!

By Joanna Fuchs

Merry Christmas
Wishing you all a cheerful, Merry Christmas!
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Frost crystals on autumn leaves - hoar frost

It's chilly outside but the yellow autumn leaves of the silver birch trees are still hanging on the graceful pendulous branches.
Silver birch tries are the last that lose their leaves in late autumn.

Shiny frost crystals are rushing the leaves to let go.
The color of the leaves turn brown becoming more intense after sharp frosts.

I like to watch the feathery hoar frost crystals, covering the rusty leaves in the morning on the tree in front of my window.

 Hoar frost on tree branches and autumn leaves.
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White Amaryllis re-blooming-Hippeastrum photos

This gorgeous flower is the White Hippeastrum, popularly but erroneously called Amaryllis. They are both bulbous plants in the family Amaryllidaceae.

Most species of amaryllis are indoor plants, blooming once a year, in late spring (May), like my red amaryllis but some cultivars put on a great show for the winter holidays.

I've recently found out that you can force your amaryllis to re-bloom the second time, in winter.
It seams now is the right time to force the plant to re-bloom so I'm going to try it. Read bellow how it works:
White amaryllis - Hippeastrum macro photoThese photos of the white amaryllis were taken at the flower center.

How to force your amaryllis to re-bloom for Christmas

  1. Once your plant is finished flowering in spring, cut the spent blooms from the top of the stem. When the stem starts to sag, cut it back 5cm (2 inches) from the top of the bulb. Don't cut off the leaves at this time.
  2. Continue to water to keep the soil moist, but not wet and feed with houseplant fertilizer at half rate.
  3. Somewhere in August the leaves will begin to yellow. Now you should cut them back too to about 5cm (2 inches) from the top of the bulb.
  4. Stop watering in mid September and place the pot with the bulb in a cool (about 10ºC), poorly lit place such as a basement or shed for about 6-8 weeks. This way you force the bulb to go dormant.
    I've read at About.com that if you want your Amaryllis to bloom at a specific time, Thanksgiving or Christmas, count backwards about 10 - 12 weeks, to determine when to stop watering.Beautiful white amaryllis flower - Hippeastrum photo
  5. In November bring the Amaryllis plant back into a well-lit and normally warm room (about 20ºC) and begin lightly watering again, just to moisten the soil.
  6. New leaves and/or flower stem will emerge after a few (6-8) weeks, if you are lucky.
I wish you much luck if you want to try too.
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Chrysanthemum time-beautiful mums

Chrysanthemums, my favorite fall flowers are finally out.
The most beautiful mums are well hidden during October and come to the market just a few days before 1 November, for the Day of the Dead.

The various colors and sizes of the chrysanthemum flowers, covering the entire flower market floor at this time is a breathtaking view. Breathtaking was the pushing-squeezing of the crowds too, the whole town is here to buy mums.
They looked at me like I've lost my mind, taking photos right now, when they have such important shopping to do.
White-purple chrysanthemums
Pink chrysanthemums
Beautiful pink chrysanthemums
I gave up taking more shots and started buying my own flowers.
That's the worse part, I can't choose just a few of these beautiful flowers; just this one with the huge flower head, one more with these pompom-like bloom, I want them all, till my last penny.

So what, nobody is perfect.
Yellow Chrysanthemum bush
Pink chrysanthemum bush
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Red Alstroemeria flowers-closeup photos

Alstroemeria flowers, though native to South America, are widely cultivated in European green houses, especially in Holland.

These miniature lilies, also known as Peruvian lilies or Lily of the Incas, are very popular flowers, especially in the cold season, when there are no more garden flowers outdoors.

They come in many colors, ranging from white, golden yellow, and orange, to apricot, pink, red, purple, and lavender but they always have two of the petals painted with vivid markings and strikingly colored spots.

Alstroemeria flowers are long lasting and very showy in flower arrangements. They usually live about two weeks in the vase, if you are lucky enough to buy fresh cut flowers.

Alstroemeria on dark background
Alstroemeria-Peruvian lily closeupI just received these flowers from my cousin and I like how the reddish-pink looks on a dark background.
Red Alstroemeria flowers
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Harvest Day in the City

Harvest Day or Harvest Festival is an ancient celebrations of a successful harvest, mainly associated with fruit and vegetables.

In old times farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal, giving thanks to God for the food grown on the land.

Though held at various times throughout the world, common features of Harvest Day are singing, contests, kids' activities, farmers' market and the most important, eating.
Autumn fruits in a basket
This year Harvest day was held in my town on 1-2 October, Saturday and Sunday, organized by the City.

On Saturday farmers offered their product for a better price (for buyers) than on other days. In the evening, there were fireworks and all kind of entertainment.

Here are a few photos taken on Sunday evening:
Children love these water walking balls, though they are laying most of the time not walking.

Kids in water walking ballsBarbeque is adults' playground, very yummy! I was not happy with all the suffocating smoke but I just had to try some of these goodies.

Meat on barbequeMeat on screwers! Looks tasty too.

Barbeque-meat on screwersSupermarkets and malls are decorated for this day too, being aware that most of us have our crops on their "fields".
Happy Harvest Day everyone!
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Butterfly bush-Buddleja davidii with Red Admiral butterfly

Butterfly bushes are still flowering in the park, even now, in September.
The Butterfly bush-Buddleja is not native to Europe, that's why we treasure them so much.

From the 100 species in the genus Buddleja the most popular is Buddleja davidii from central China.
Buddleja davidii, also called summer lilac or orange eye is naturalized in most central and southern Europe. It is much appreciated and used as an ornamental plant in butterfly gardens and parks.

The lilac to purple inflorescence is produced in panicles at the end of the arching branches and often are honey-scented.
Butterfly bush flower-Buddleja davidii closeup
The flowers are what they call the "perfect flower" meaning that male and female organs are found in different flowers on the same plant and they are often wind pollinated. Though they don't rely on winged pollinators, the flowers are an important nectar source for many species of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
Butterfly bush with flowers-Buddleja Bdavidii
Here is a pink butterfly bush flower with a Red Admiral butterfly gathering pollen.

Red Admiral butterflies have a fantastic, vivid coloration on the upper part of their wings. Unfortunately, from my position and taking care not to shake the bush, I could capture most of its underpart, which is dark, marveled.
Pink butterfly bush flower with Red Admiral
Here is a better view of the Red Admiral butterfly's coloration.
Red Admiral butterfly on aster flower
Though Wikipedia says that this species of butterfly bush is not able to survive by temperatures below about -15°C to -20°C, our bushes are adapted to much lower temperatures during our cold winter days.
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Rose garden in September-rose pictures

The Orthodox Cathedral in the center of our town is surrounded by rose gardens.
The roses are at their last blooming period and are in full bloom now, in September.

I've spent a few hours among these roses, taking pictures, and inhaling their amazingly sweet scent, the one thing I regret that I can't share with you.

There are so many roses here that I've had a really hard time to isolate a few of them for macro shots. In most cases I couldn't do it, and ended up with colorful patches from the blurred out roses in the background.
I'm too lazy to process them in a software but when it comes to roses, it doesn't matter anyway; roses are always roses.
Rose garden in September
Pink rose head-closeup macro
Cream rose head-closeup photo
Coral red rose bud unfolding-closeup photo
Rose garden around the church
See more rose macros in my rose gallery!
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Purple Shamrock pictures-Love flower-Oxalis triangularis

I've found this Purple Shamrock-Oxalis triangularis, in front of a church.
It is also called Love Plant and I only saw it before indoors, as a house plant. I was surprised to see that it thrives in the over 30C full sun.
It is said that they need lower temperature or they go dormant earlier but I saw this one flowering all summer.

The small flowers of Purple Shamrock are produced in clusters, having a beautiful, light purple-pink color.

The foliage is deep purple with a central blotch of red on each heart-shaped leaflet. The leaves fold down in low light conditions, from sunset till morning light, when they open again.
Purple Shamrock close up-Oxalis triangularis
Oxalis Triangularis are bulbous plants and can be propagated by division of the bulbs during the dormancy period.
Like by any other wood-sorrel, the leaves of Oxalis Triangularis are edible, with moderation. They contain Oxalic acid , that in high quantity can aggravate arthritis, gout, and kidney stones.
Oxalis triangularis-Purple Shamrock-Love flower
Though I see this plant as a delicate house plant, in some parts of the world it seams to be invasive and a nuisance.

MACRO FLOWERS SATURDAY
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Rose Mallow - Lavatera trimestris-pictures and info

Rose Mallow - Lavatera trimestris is a fast growing, heavily blooming annual shrub, indigenous to Europe and naturalized in many parts of the world.

It grows 60-100 cm (2-3 feet) high and produces large, pink-purple or white flowers, resembling hibiscus or hollyhock flowers.
The pink flower petals are crossed by darker purple veins.

Rose mallow is an abundant bloomer, having a long blooming period, from June all the way until September.
Pink Rose Mallow-close up

Growing tips:

  • Though it is an annual, the rose mallow will reseed itself if left to do it.
  • Saw the seed in early spring at the place where the plant will grow, it doesn't like replanting.
  • Rose mallow is a very adaptable plant, there for very easy to grow. It does best in sandy or loamy soil but tolerates clay as well.
  • No need for fertilizer and it is not picky about the PH level of the soil either.
  • It prefers full sun to light shade and average moisture level.
Rose mallow, with its tropical appearance, is a lovely addition to any garden.
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Evening primrose-Oenothera photos

So this is the evening primrose!
I had no idea what this flower was when I took this picture. I was very disappointed when I identified as the evening primrose.

Of course I've heard about it but because of the name relationship I was expecting to see something as delicate as the spring primrose, the primula.

As its name says, evening primrose flowers should open in the evening but strangely, I took these photos in the middle of the day.
Evening primrose close-up
The flowers are very large with 5-6cm long petals. This species must be the Oenothera glazioviana, the large-flowered evening primrose on its common name.
Evening primrose plant
Click the badge in the side bar and join Macro Flowers Saturday.
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Zinnias after storm-Zinnia flower photos

Zinnias are very hardy flowers, I told you so, in another post.

The many weeks of heat wave is finally over and now we are having the other extreme:summer storm with ice pieces from cherry size to egg size.
Thanks God, I have all my windows intact but my flowers in the window boxes are history and probably, the crops too.

I went out a few hours earlier to see what's left of the flowers at the church yard, across the street. The place is one of my photo sources.
Yellow zinnia flower-macro photo
As you can see in the pictures Zinnia flowers are standing tall as always, a few holes in the leaves and some minor scratches on the petals, that's all.
Pink zinnia after storm-macro
It's true that these flowers are planted under trees, so they were partially protected.
Dark pink zinnia-close-up photo
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Phlox paniculata-Garden phlox-pictures

Phlox paniculata-Garden phlox is blooming from July till early fall.
Unlike its creeping sister, the Moss phlox, Phlox paniculata is an upright, 0.6-1 m (2-4 ft) tall, colorful perennial.

Its abundant flowers come in compact clusters of white, pink, purple or bi-color, scented flowers.
Many cultivars have a darker eye in the flower center.

They are very ornamental in borders and flower beds.
Phlox paniculata-garden phlox picture
Garden phlox is an easy to grow, drought-resistant perennial and does well on a sunny exposure. Plants planted in the shade and those heavily fertilized are more exposed to diseases.
Phlox paniculata -pink garden phlox
Powdery mildew is a well-known fungus on many ornamental plants like on roses, zinnias, begonias, lilacs and on Phlox, as well.Though many cultivars have a higher resistance to the powdery mildew fungus, some elementary measures should be taken to prevent this nuisance:
/White Phlox paniculata-closeup
White border phlox plantPowdery mildew prevention:
  • Allow air circulation throughout the foliage by properly spacing plants, when planted.
  • Choose an area with adequate sunlight for the plant.
  • Apply fungicides at the first signs of fungus.
  • Remove diseased leaves and affected plant tissue in fall to prevent survival of the fungus over the winter.
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Sunflower pictures-sunflower bouquet

Sunflowers are such happy flowers. A bouquet of sunflowers in the kitchen or in the office brightens your day and makes you do your job with a smile on your face.
No wonder that a bouquet with three sunflowers and some field herbs around them is so expensive ($5) at the flower vendors. Everybody likes them.

These in the photo are giant sunflowers that grow on the field reaching over 2.5 m in height. They don't need any care except the help of the busy, little bees.
From the seeds of these healthy flowers my favorite oil will be produced in autumn.
Sunflower against the blue sky
Did you know that sunflowers can be used to extract toxic chemicals from soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium?
Sunflower center and petals-details-close-up
Have you seen my Teddy bear sunflower?

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Oregano in flower- Oregano plant pictures

Oregano, the pizza herb is in flower right now.
Oregano-Origanum vulgare aka wild marjoram is a hardy perennial in the mint family, native to temperate western and southwestern Europe and to the Mediterranean region.

The flowers of the Oregano plant are of a beautiful pink color produced in erect spikes, in July.
I found these flowers yesterday in a flower bed in front of a shop, growing wild among other carefree ground cover plants.
Looking for some info about them on the web, I was surprised to read how miraculous this plant is. Here I share my findings with you:

For centuries, fresh and dried leaves of oregano are commonly used for culinary purpose to add flavor in sauces and various food preparations, in many parts of the world like Italian, Mexican, Spanish, Turkish and Greek dishes. It has a warm and slightly bitter taste and it is a must ingredient of the Italian pizza sauce.
Flowering Oregano-Origanum vulgare plant
There are several species of Oregano plants but climate and soil composition has the most important effect on the flavor of the aromatic oil contained in the plants' leaves. Dried leaves seam to be more flavorful than green ones.
Oregano flowers-closeup
Oregano leaves and flowering stem has been used as medicinal herb since thousands of years back. You can grow Oregano in a container or a flower pot or you can buy Oregano oil from your local health food store.
Oregano oil is an important volatile oil obtained from the plant's leaves and contains precious chemical constituents like carvacrol, thymol, limonene, pinene, ocimene, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, niacin, riboflavin and is also rich in vitamins. The plant is a powerful anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, a natural antibiotic and antioxidant, stimulant and mild tonic.
Oregano-wild marjoram leaves and flowers

Oregano- medicinal uses

  • For its anti-fungal properties Oregano is used in external and internal fungal infections like Candida, insect bites and skin problems.
  • The flavonoids the plant contains have powerful anti-microbial and natural antiseptic properties.
  • Oregano herbal tea is used in urinary problems, lung problems, diarrhea, nausea, as a digestive.
  • Oregano is also an efficient pain killer used in headaches and toothache. Tooth infection is treated by applying Oregano oil directly to the infected tooth.
  • The plant has higher levels of antioxidants than vegetables. A tablespoon of fresh leaves from your garden can be added to the daily food

Oregano side effects

  • This medicinal herb has no serious side effects. However, by people having allergies to herbal supplements it can produce skin rash, itching and chest discomfort, if administered in high doses.
  • Oregano is not recommended for pregnant women and lactating women, neither for children.
  • People having high blood pressure or heart problems should ask for advice a qualified physician before using oregano.
  • Oregano Oil sold as essential oil is very concentrated, you will need to dilute it with olive oil or coconut oil before using.
  • Start with the smallest recommended dose, working up gradually to larger doses.
  • Just simple common sense is needed to benefit of the Oregano's healing properties, without having any side effects.
Like Basil, oregano contain large amounts of (E)-beta-caryophyllene, which seams to help in the treatment of arthritis and inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine.
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Four o'clock flower-Mirabilis jalapa-pictures

The four o'clock flower-Mirabilis jalapa, this popular garden plant is starting to bloom in July.
The flowers open in the afternoon, that's where the name comes from. They stay open during the night, being pollinated by nocturnal pollinators, like the sphinx moths or hawk moths.

Also called the Marvel of Peru, the flowers of this plant are splashed with different colors, like these yellow flowers with pink- magenta spots. More interesting is that as the plant matures, it can display flowers of different colors on the same plant; the yellow flowers can change to pink or white ones change to light violet.
Four-o'clock flower-Mirabilis Jalapa yellow
Four o'clock plants are shruby perennials in warm climates, growing from tuberous roots. In colder climate the foliage dies back to the ground in autumn but the tubers must be stored indoors during winter and replanted in the garden in spring.
Four-o'clock flower-closeup
The flowers are used for food coloring. Parts of the plant are used in herbal medicine as a diuretic and for wound healing.
Though its black seeds are poisonous, they are used as a powder in cosmetics.
Four o'clock flowers-pink marvel of Peru
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Daisy Daisy-English daisy

I found this container planted with a mass of red, rose and white daisies near a church.

It is a bright mixture of English daisy (Bellis perennis) cultivars, from the tiny button flowers with yellow button centers to the larger daisy flowers with long, narrow and pointed petals.

They make me remember of "Daisy Daisy", the lyrics of the popular old song
Daisy Bell!
by Harry Dacre, 1892.

There is a flower within my heart,
Daisy, Daisy,
Planted one day by a glancing dart,
Planted by Daisy Bell.
Whether she loves me or loves me not
Sometimes it's hard to tell,
And yet I am longing to share the lot
Of beautiful Daisy Bell.

Chorus:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
I'm half crazy all for the love of you.
It won't be a stylish marriage -
I can't afford a carriage,
But you'd look sweet on the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.

We will go tandem as man and wife,
Daisy, Daisy,
Ped'ling away down the road of life,
I and my Daisy Bell.
When the road's dark, we can both despise
P'licemen and lamps as well.
There are bright lights in the dazzling eyes
Of beautiful Daisy Bell.

(Chorus)
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do...

I will stand by you in wheel or woe
Daisy, Daisy,
You'll be the bell which I'll ring you know
Sweet little Daisy Bell
You'll take the lead on each trip we take
Then if I don't do well
I will permit you to use the brake
beautiful Daisy Bell!
Bellis perennis-white daisy with red tips
Pink pom-pom daisy close-up
English daisies in a container
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Gold moss-Sedum sarmentosum ground cover-pictures

Gold moss is in flower right now, in June.
Sedum sarmentosum, on its botanical name, is a fast growing, creeping plant, an Asian member of the big sedum family.
Stringy Stonecrop aka: Star sedum or Graveyard Moss is a low maintenance, spreading plant often used as ground cover. It cascades nicely on stone walls, rock gardens and looks nice in hanging baskets as well.
This hardy, drought tolerant perennial can seed itself anywhere and grows very fast.
The main leaves at the base of the plant are roundish but the flowering, creeping branches have pointed leaves.
It flowers in summer with bright greenish-yellow, star shaped flowers that lend it the names Star Sedum and Yellow Moss.
Gold moss-Sedum sarmentosum flower closeup
The flowering stems rest on top of the foliage, where the name " Stringy Stonecrop" comes from.
Sedum sarmentosum-Stringy Stonecrop flowers and leavesAs a ground cover it can be invasive, but with its shallow roots the plant is easy to control.
Gold moss grows in just about any soil, tolerates well full sun or sun to partial shade.
Flowering gold moss-Sedum sarmentosum
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